WhatsApp to start sharing more user data, including phone numbers, with Facebook

By midian182 · 9 replies
Aug 25, 2016
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  1. When WhatsApp introduced full end-to-end encryption enabled by default, it became regarded as one of the best messaging services in terms of privacy. But that distinction could be thrown into question after an update to its policies and T&Cs today, which revealed that it wants to share more user information, including phone numbers, with its parent company, Facebook.

    The messaging service wrote that by sharing the info, Facebook, which purchased WhatsApp in 2014, will be able to make better friend suggestions and deliver more relevant ads. WhatsApp said doing this will also enable it to “fight spam and abuse, and improve experiences across our services and those of Facebook and the Facebook family.”

    “But by coordinating more with Facebook, we'll be able to do things like track basic metrics about how often people use our services and better fight spam on WhatsApp. And by connecting your phone number with Facebook's systems, Facebook can offer better friend suggestions and show you more relevant ads if you have an account with them.”

    WhatsApp added that the update is part of its plans to test ways for people to communicate with businesses in the months ahead. It hopes that the service could eventually be used by banks to inform customers of fraudulent transactions, or by airlines to issue notifications of delayed flights, for example, all without third-party banner ads or spam.

    There’s no way for WhatsApp users to stop their phone number from being shared with Facebook, but the company does provide a way to opt-out of having it used to improve “ads and product experiences.” It’s also worth remembering that if you don’t have a Facebook account, nothing will change - the updated policy isn’t going to require that you create one.

    Unsurprisingly, some people have already voiced concerns over the update. WhatsApp has responded with a blog post, called “Setting the record straight,” which states that members can continue to use the service and speak their mind without fear.

    Respect for your privacy is coded into our DNA, and we built WhatsApp around the goal of knowing as little about you as possible: You don't have to give us your name and we don't ask for your email address. We don’t know your birthday. We don’t know your home address. We don’t know where you work. We don’t know your likes, what you search for on the internet or collect your GPS location. None of that data has ever been collected and stored by WhatsApp, and we really have no plans to change that.

    If partnering with Facebook meant that we had to change our values, we wouldn’t have done it. Instead, we are forming a partnership that would allow us to continue operating independently and autonomously.

    Despite these words of assurance, there's a chance the updated policies could see some people leaving the messaging service, though with one billion monthly users, it's unlikely to have a significant impact on WhatsApp.

    Permalink to story.

  2. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 747   +357

    But is anyone really surprised? If it was true end-to-end encryption, where only the sender and recipient can read & reply, then data mining (I.e. monetization) becomes impossible beyond simple metadata. Did anyone really think that Facebook would make the app they bought for how many millions/billions of dollars completely unprofitable - and even a money sink - for the sake of the consumer? Not a chance.
    psycros likes this.
  3. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,274

    It comes as no surprise, it was just a matter of time before that malware/spyware site loosely termed as Facebook got their greedy, money grasping meathooks into Whatsapp and screwed it up. Lets wait and see if Whatsapp's noble mission statement is worth the pixels it uses on our screens.
  4. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,286   +901

    You sound as bad as the truckseries dude, that's all I'm going to say.

    I don't know, if this far people still think their lives are worth the privacy, don't get a phone, hell, don't get emails, better yet, go live on a mountain and grow your own food.

    On my end, I certainly don't care about companies using my information to improve their services and maybe improve marketing schemes, after all I'm using their services for "free" and I'm getting enough out of them that I'm good with it.
  5. Skidmarksdeluxe

    Skidmarksdeluxe TS Evangelist Posts: 8,647   +3,274

    Google knows more about me and my habits than I know myself. I can't remember what colour undies I put on this morning but I'll bet Google knows so I don't see why I should also share that info with FB, a site I don't use, have an account with and couldn't care less about,
    psycros likes this.
  6. mbrowne5061

    mbrowne5061 TS Evangelist Posts: 747   +357

    The problem is that this throws two-party consent out the windows - all TOSes that allow for contact mining do this. My friend uses an App, they agreed to the TOS, and this app reads all of their contact info. I don't use said app, never agreed - or even read - it's TOS, and yet now they have my contact info. Contact info that they will sell to ad agencies like Google AdSense, or Facebook, or any other internet ad provider. This isn't my email, nor social media profile - this is as simple as a phone number (which has no TOS - and is in fact protected under various US laws from surveillance and other forms of data collection), and possibly my home address as well.

    How is this right? You would literally have to do as you facetiously suggested, and go live on a mountain and grow your own food, if you wanted to avoid this.
  7. SirGCal

    SirGCal TS Maniac Posts: 365   +136

    Good thing I don't use either one I guess... No one needs/wants to know what I do constantly. Never understood that.
  8. Kibaruk

    Kibaruk TechSpot Paladin Posts: 3,286   +901

    It's exactly why I said it, it's pretty pointless to try and avoid it but on the other hand, I never get my phone used for spam so it's not that bad. My email though... well it's a namelastname at a massive provider I got lucky to get on the beginnings but the spam folder is never empty, on the nice hand I never see spam on the inbox =)
  9. commanderasus

    commanderasus TS Booster Posts: 195   +72

    That is exactly why my cat has facebook to keep track of all the dogs in the neighbourhood. He is now armed with a smartphone and is recording al the bad dog habits.
  10. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 9,715   +3,693

    “fight spam and abuse, and improve experiences across our services and those of Facebook and the Facebook family.”

    Seriously that is the exact opposite to the reasoning behind sharing user info.

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